The Art Gallery of My Soul…
Is food Art? History? Science? Not only what we eat but how we consume food, does it speak about our Spirit, our history.
Yesterday, while prepping for what is now today’s meal, I pulled out a huge pan and filled it with a combination of red Swiss chard and collard greens.
Standing at the kitchen sink to wash my greens, the memory of a time when my grandmothers and older aunts used large white enamel pans and bowls to prep their food. Such a moment to peaceably connect to my history with a remembrance I choose to preserve.
When I was younger, a trip to the Museum of Art and History was an incredible adventure. The drama of climbing beautifully laid stairs of cement and stone, one-by-one, began the slow transition into ageless history. Enormous and equally impressive columns accentuated by oversized busts of lions were welcoming. These steps leading to ancestry time capsules transporting you deep into the history of cultures. Walls lined with beautiful artwork and each tells a unique story and most from a more primitive era in history. Quiet rooms, tiny galleries within, allowing you to stand alone and study not only what the artist could see but the experience of his “subject” as well.
Around four-o’clock this morning, my son called out for me to come to his bedroom. After cleaning him and with one eye opened, my body begged for at least two more hours of sleep. Somehow I began to imagine what would the art gallery of my soul reveal and then I paused. Both eyes open now. Laptop open. This is daunting, if not crazy.
As an amateur photographer (too), I have learned more important than the camera’s body is the lens. For a painter, he or she would painstakingly choose the best brushes to explore their emotions and capture what their Spirit speaks back to them on a quality, blank canvass. Thoughts running through my brain, suddenly my heart began spilling out my history: Splashes of happy times, challenging climbs…. Love (including one that will not go away), humility; There is a valley (perhaps two), tears of joy and gut-wrenching pain, loneliness, fulfillment, depression, arrogance, flowers, rejection, open roads, labor, waiting, the farm, childbirth, catching up, confusion, religion, longsuffering, unrest, a forest, cold, being left behind, being far ahead, brilliance, snow, icy roads, death, a garden or two… lost… gains … dark nights… Atheistic moments (Yes, I admit this experience)… I see mornings of glory and glaring sun light that warms the very core of my existence. Dances with God… At the mountaintop… Wait, He danced with me in the valley too… Anxiety… The forest again… A lake… I am in this tiny room again… In search of what can make sense of the hodgepodge. What is the role of food?
Why does food speak to such a range of emotions? My baby’s life shattered mine and I remember the very first rock of this avalanche as it struck. The shock initially took away my breath, then my appetite and I began to lose weight. The night he was born, my physician ordered lobster for my dinner. My heart was breaking and food made no sense. For weeks, I could only drink coffee and nibble on whatever others placed before me. I diligently tried to eat for him, because they were “feeding” him my milk. I would quietly sit in a lactation room and pump my breasts… needing to do something, anything for my baby. My womb had failed him… The least I could do was give him that all important mother’s milk. Finally, after nearly passing out one afternoon… a dear friend and my oldest son’s tutor (I hired her to make sure he kept up with his studies) began making regular visits to the hospital insisting I come down to the cafeteria where she threatened to feed me… the first meal, she did because my strength was gone. Soon though, my appetite returned and food became my crutch to cope with many unavoidable, yet identifiable stressors as well the unknown. (I was afflicted with what is commonly called “Caregivers’ Stress”.)
Food carried me to excessive weight gain and obesity further isolated me from my life. (What bothered me more than anything though was my inability to balance myself and feel comfortable in high heel shoes.) For nearly ten years, the weight was inconsequential… and then one day, “Sweet Basil’s” reminded me of me, the woman. I began to walk, lift weights and eat healthy again and 70 pounds later… a new woman emerged. I like her!
Yet, the merging of two lives intricately woven until one or the other’s demise compounds the art gallery of my soul. Food is a little bit of art, history and science. Incorporating the balance of these three is the challenge… at least for me.